Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review : Sister India

Peggy Payne is a travel writer and her attention to the tiny details when traveling come through in this book, her fourth.

My husband who has lived and worked in Varanasi for almost 5 years, found it suprising that a "foreigner" could grasp the essence of the city so well.

Sister India is a work of fiction, which tells multiple stories of the guests at the Saraswati Guesthouse managed by the formidable Madam Nataraja, but the true hero/heroine of this story is the city of Benares/Varanasi itself.

Historically, one of the Holiest cities in India, a lot of "foreigners" visit this city on a quest. Each ones quest may be different. Some find answers, some do not. Some pass by as tourists ticking off another city off their list, some stay back and become a part of the teeming multitudes of the city.

A bundh call by the city officials as a consequence of the unrest following a murder with religious tones forces the inmates of the Saraswati Guesthouse into closer quarters than normal. The forced isolation sets each one on a journey of the discovery of their self, leading them to remember incidents in the past that moulded them into who they are today.

Would recommend the book to anyone who is visiting Benares and wants to get an idea of the city before arriving, a lay-of-the-land so to speak.

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